Schwarzenegger Month: The 6th Day

Time is not treating The 6th Day well. Released late in 2000, the movie opens with an XFL game. The XFL, for members of the Loyal Seven who do not remember, was a winter/spring professional football league founded by the WWE’s Vince McMahon, which began play in real life a couple months after this movie’s release. The league managed to limp through one season of play, but that was it. Hardly anyone was watching. Its appearance in this film was an inspired, and probably expensive, bit of product placement, but seeing it did nothing to make me think I was about to watch a good movie.

The 6th Day takes place in the near future, that time when all of our kids will have grown up to hate us for the world we have left them. In this future, not only is the XFL a viable enterprise, but cloning has been perfected. It’s illegal to clone humans, but if one needs an organ, it can be grown in a lab, lickety-split. Accidentally ran over the family cat? No problem. Just take it to Repet, and little Sally will be able to hold a replacement Whiskers in her arms in just a few hours. She won’t be able to tell the difference, or your money back!

Director Roger Spottiswoode was committed to the future vision of this movie. Besides cloning and the XFL, there are laser pistols, smart appliances, GPS navigation, tablet computers, biometric security, self-driving cars, and holographic sex kittens. The technology is a bit hit and miss, but that can be excused. In the year 2000 it seemed a reasonable idea that our fridges would someday use the internet.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Adam Gibson, an extreme expeditions pilot who is way too happy for his own good. Early on in the film, he gets a new client, Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), the CEO of the company that holds the patents on cloning. Adam has some errands to run, so his partner and best friend, Hank (a bewigged Michael Rappaport), flies Drucker up into the mountains. Here, a little trickery ensues, or does it? We viewers don’t know, but the strange jump cuts in this sequence point to something. Later, errands complete, Gibson heads on home, only to discover a clone has taken his place. Thus begins Gibson’s struggle to find out what the hell is going on.

The 6th Day is one of those films that had strong ideas behind it, but something got lost in bringing the movie to the big screen. Cloning hasn’t been in the news much of late. Around the turn of the century, though, it was a bit of a hot-button topic. There were ethical concerns, moral concerns, fears for the future, fears that such technology could lead to a race of slaves, or, worse, a never-dying class of overlords who can leap from an ailing body into a healthy, young shell, thus ruling us for all time. Concerns over cloning came and went only because the technology isn’t there yet, but don’t think people like the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson wouldn’t see the value in living forever. It would not be the clones that become slaves, but us.

The movie only lightly touched on these ideas, unfortunately. Most of the runtime was dedicated to the star. Gibson runs around all over the future unnamed city trying to clear his name. To add to the danger, he’s being hunted down by a pack of security agents who are themselves clones, their jobs apparently being quite hazardous. Every time Gibson kills one of them, they are cloned back at the lab and set back onto Gibson’s trail. How is someone supposed to run from people that can’t be killed? It’s like Gibson is being followed by clumsy terminators. But, this movie has much more in common with Total Recall than with The Terminator.

The main theme of this movie centers around Gibson having his life taken away from him. He’s not sure who the villains are or what exactly is happening. All he knows is, there’s a clone that looks just like him banging his wife. If that isn’t a reason to kill some folks, I don’t know what is.

The 6th Day is a valiant effort, but it feels as if much of what makes the story good has been excised. Sometimes it is pretty easy to spot when a film has been reworked to further showcase its star, and that seems to be what happened here. There was a good movie being made at some point in the development process, but that movie died and Hollywood mediocrity rose like the Phoenix from the ashes in its place. Too bad.